Getting older is a natural part of being alive. As we mature, our skin thins, our bones may weaken, and our body tends to slow down. As a result, we need to change our routines to accommodate these changes in our bodies. But did you know that as we age, our teeth change, too? In fact, there are many ways we need to adapt our oral health care routines as we get older.
Here are a few ways our mouths change with time, and what we can do to make sure we are taking the best care possible of our oral health.
- Dry Mouth
A very frequent problem among seniors and older adults is dry mouth. Dry mouth occurs when the glands in your mouth which produce saliva don’t work properly. This can be caused by many things, but it is frequently caused simply by aging or taking certain medications. It can also be caused by drinking, smoking, and chemotherapy.
Dry Mouth can often be reversed by switching medications or by using prescription products to help moisturize the mouth. You can also try things like sleeping with a humidifier in your room, eliminating spicy foods from your diet, cutting back on drinking and smoking, and chewing sugarless gum or drinking lots of water.
- Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease is a very common disease caused by the bacteria in dental plaque. It develops when the bacteria found in plaque along the gum line enters the gums, causing them to be infected and swollen. It can eventually lead to the loss of teeth and gums, and in some severe cases can cause loss of bone and connective tissue. Seniors are more prone to periodontal disease because many seniors have difficulty properly brushing their teeth due to arthritis or diminished flexibility. This is why it is imperative for seniors to make sure they attend regular dental cleanings, and to speak to their dentist if they are encountering difficulties brushing or flossing their teeth.
- Difficulty Brushing
As you get older, you lose flexibility in your bones and joints. If you find yourself struggling to clean your teeth as easily as you could when you were younger, consider switching to an ergonomic flosser or electric toothbrush. Waterpiks are not as effective as flossing, but may be much easier to hold and are still better than not flossing at all.
As we age, it is not uncommon to experience tooth loss whether from increasingly brittle bones, periodontitis, root canals, or extractions due to tooth decay. For that reason, many seniors end up with dentures. Caring for dentures is just as important as caring for natural teeth, as improper care can irreparably damage dentures, which can be very expensive to replace. It is recommended that you keep your dentures immersed in denture soak when not in use to keep them from drying out. Clean them each night after removing them. Tough stains and stuck food can be cleaned with a toothbrush and denture paste. After rinsing, soak your dentures in a glass of water with a denture tablet which will clean and break up any build up left behind by brushing. In the morning, rinse your dentures thoroughly before placing them back in your mouth.
- Dental Implants
Dental implants are another form of replacement teeth. Dental implants can come out, but generally are left in the mouth unless they need to be examined by a dentist. To clean your dental implants, brush them as you would the rest of your teeth, with toothbrush and toothpaste. Be sure to floss between your implants and other teeth. Even if you have two implants side by side, flossing can still help prevent bad breath and periodontal disease.
- Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is most common in adults over the age of 40. Make sure you are attending regular dental checkups to be screened for oral cancer, and notify your dentist immediately if you notice any changes to your mouth such as jaw pain or stiffness, difficulty swallowing, discolored patches in the mouth, swelling, or a painful tongue.
If you have any other questions about how to better care for the health of your mouth as you age, please contact Dr. Hill’s office at 469-640-9550.